Using opponent data for each team on the following week's schedule, Basketball Prospectus can estimate how much a player's performance will vary because of the defenses he will face in the next week. (See here for more details on the process.) Each week, Bradford Doolittle will take a look at five players to use, five to limit and an ideal pickup.
These are players currently owned by less than half of owners in ESPN Fantasy Basketball 2012 that may be worth a roster spot in the week ahead.
Gerald Henderson (Owned 19.1%, Opponent boost 12.6%)
Be careful because though the Bobcats seem intent on getting Henderson back in the lineup, teams tend to oversell these things. Before Henderson went down with a strained hamstring, he had emerged as a solid 15-17 point scorer on a team starved for consistent offense. He's played the majority minutes at shooting guard this season even though Charlotte coach Paul Silas has experimented with a small starting backcourt, moving Henderson to the three. It sounds like either recently-returned D.J. Augustin or rookie Kemba Walker will head to the bench, so the small guard lineup appears to be dead for now. Reggie Williams has shot just 35 percent from the floor, so Henderson shouldn't have any trouble reclaiming his position. Once he does, the next couple of weeks look relatively bright. And also light--Charlotte plays just four times during that stretch whereas most teams are playing five or six times. Each of Charlotte's four matchups, especially the three during the first week, is favorable for shooting guards.
Randy Foye (Owned 16.8%, Opponent boost 11.2%)
Fantasy leaguers have been slow to embrace Foye as the Clippers' starting two in place of the injured Chauncey Billups. Four of Foye's five starts since taking over have been good to fair; the other was terrible. If you believe that Foye will become more consistent now that he's getting regular minutes, now might be the time to move on him. The Clippers have six games in the next two weeks, largely against teams that have fared poorly against the wing positions. Zero in on the Clippers' back-to-back games against Sacramento (17 percent boost) and Phoenix (23 percent). If Foye can't get it together against those teams, it may just not be in the cards for him. One would think that he would be particularly motivated at the moment given all the rumors about J.R. Smith coming in to take over his job.
Jordan Crawford (Owned 31.5%, Opponent boost 8.2%)
Crawford has been battling a terrible shooting slump of late, but he's a streaky player and the matchups will be working in his favor over the next two weeks. He's continued to get minutes and shots even as his field-goal percentage has tumbled, so you can view that as encouraging. Crawford gets Phoenix and Sacramento next week for Washington's two games before the All-Star break. If he gets things going against those weak-defending clubs, then perhaps his stroke will hold up when the competition gets a little bit tougher after the respite. Don't forget, Crawford had a seven-game stretch last season when he averaged 24.7 points per game. When he gets hot, he can stay hot for awhile.
Marvin Williams (Owned 7.8%, Opponent boost 6.5%)
Williams has been exceedingly poor of late and his minutes have begun to droop. But if you're beset by injuries and your league is deep, you may not have many options. One thing you can count on: Williams will be in Atlanta's starting lineup night in and night out. That may actually be a good thing over the next couple of weeks. After a tough matchup on Monday against Luol Deng and the Bulls, things get considerably easier for Williams and the Hawks. Thursday's matchup with Hedo Turkoglu and Orlando looks promising. The game you want to keep an eye on comes on Feb. 29 when the Hawks take on Golden State. Small forwards have been an astounding 43 percent more productive against Golden State than the rest of the league. That's easily the worst any team defends any position. Dorell Wright and Brandon Rush have split time at the position. Neither has defended well, but Wright's performance has been particularly egregious.
J.J. Redick (Owned 34.3%, Opponent boost 5.6%)
After a five-game slump, Redick seems to be getting it back together, just in time for a soft slate ahead. Lately, he's been getting the short end of the stick in his job-sharing arrangement with Jason Richardson. Richardson has been ridiculously hot, hitting nine 3s in one game, but the pendulum always swings back the other way for him. Orlando has games against Washington, Milwaukee and New Jersey coming up--all teams that give up a ton of 3-pointers.
These are players owned in most leagues, perhaps even by you, that you may want to leave on the bench for a few days because of a rugged schedule.
Brandon Jennings (Owned 100%, Opponent hit -10.1%)
Speaking of streaky shooters, Jennings hasn't hit half of his shots in a game all month. Lately, not only have his shooting numbers been down, but his assists have fallen as well. Unfortunately, the competition he's going to face is fierce. Before the break, he gets Orlando and Chicago, both solid defensively inside and out. After, he gets Washington and Boston. As it seems like we write every week, point guard is the one position the Wizards defends well thanks to John Wall. There isn't a schedule break in any of the six games the Bucks have over the next two weeks. Thus Jennings wins this week's award for facing the toughest group of opponents of any player in the league. The timing couldn't be worse.
Luol Deng (Owned 100%, Opponent hit -8.5%)
Deng has played well since returning from his wrist injury. The surprise in his game this season has been his ability to create for others when Derrick Rose is out of the lineup. Deng handed out 11 assists against the Kings on Tuesday. Rose's back trouble is likely to be a lingering problem, so that's a nice little bonus for Deng owners. Unfortunately, he's got a tough road to navigate over his next six games. For all his offensive woes, Marvin Williams has contributed to a fine defensive showing against threes for Atlanta, Monday's opponent for Chicago. After the break, Deng gets a softie in New Orleans, but then has tough plays against San Antonio and Cleveland. To finish off the stretch, Deng takes on defensive wizard Andre Iguodala and the Sixers.
Gerald Wallace (Owned 100%, Opponent hit -8.1%)
Wallace has been playing big minutes and filling the box score line lately, so you're good in that regard. The slate does get rougher up ahead, so be aware. It starts on Monday when the Blazers take on the Lakers and Spurs. After the break, it doesn't get any easier when Wallace gets Denver and Miami. With LeBron James leading the way, the Heat is the league's best team against small forwards. Wallace gets a break in the last of his five upcoming games, on March 3 against Minnesota. Look, Wallace is going to stay on the court and will log 35-40 minutes per night whether or not he's producing big numbers. His defense is vital to the Blazers. Just be aware that his efficiency may sag.
Joe Johnson (Owned 100%, Opponent hit -6.9%)
Would you consider sitting Johnson? You may want to. Johnson has shot 35 percent over his last five games and it seems to get worse with each passing contest. He's just 5-for-26 from 3-point range during that stretch. Coming up, he's got rugged matchups against Chicago and Orlando sandwiched around an easier one against New York. After the break, he's got Golden State, Milwaukee and Oklahoma City. Believe it or not, Milwaukee is the only one of that trio that is below average against shooting guards.
Kevin Durant (Owned 100%, Opponent hit -5.9%)
You can't bench Kevin Durant. We know this, you know this. He might have a tough schedule coming up, or he might not. Statistically, it looks difficult. It starts slow--New Orleans and Boston haven't been great against small forwards. But then Durant gets the Lakers, Sixers and Hawks--all good against Durant's position. So beware of that, but also keep in mind that Durant is probably less competition-sensitive than any player in the league.
THIS WEEK'S IDEAL GET
This is the player not mentioned above who stands to get the biggest boost from this week's slate. If you've had you're eye on via the trade market, now is the time to pull the trigger. If you own him, you may want to hold off on that deal for another week.
Roy Hibbert (Owned 100%, Opponent boost 22.8%)
Oh, to be young and 7'2". Hibbert has thrived in what Pacers coach Frank Vogel refers to as his power-post offense, improving his production across the board. The Pacers have just four games over the next two weeks, two against New Orleans and one each against Golden State and Charlotte. Of those, the Warriors defend centers best and they're nine percent worse than the league. Charlotte has been the league's worst team against centers and New Orleans hasn't been much better. The only potential risk is that the Pacers may win in blowouts, reducing Hibbert's minutes. It should be a good stretch for the big guy.
(A version of this article originally appeared at ESPN Insider .
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